Half of Britain's consumers believe that supermarkets in the country have too much power, and that the power imbalance is driving smaller independent retailers out of business, according to a national opinion poll carried out by NOP on behalf of the New Economics Foundation.
NOP interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people by telephone between May 2nd and May 4th, 2003, and found that 50% of respondents thought that the size and strength of supermarkets is driving smaller retailers out of business, and that they should be stopped.
Those consumers expressing this opinion agreed that supermarkets should be controlled to stop them putting independent retailers out of business.
Furthermore, 70% of consumers interviewed said they would prefer to shop locally, rather than at the nearest out-of-town supermarket. This figure comprises 21% who would prefer to do their food shopping in local shops, and 49% who prefer to shop at their local in-town supermarket (rather than at an out-of-town supermarket).
One in five consumers (20%) also thinks that, when planning decisions are made, supermarkets wield more influence than the local council or people.
In terms of product sourcing, some 52% of those who expressed a preference wanted locally grown food, and another 46% would prefer their food to be grown in the UK.
According to a statement by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the major supermarket chains in the UK stock only around 7% locally produced foods, and up to 14% regionally produced foods.
"In market economies, the consumer is supposed to be sovereign," said Andrew Simms, director of policy for the New Economics Foundation. "But the evidence suggests that people's preference for local produce is not being met."
"The phenomenon of 'Ghost Town Britain' - local shops and services losing out to larger operators - has drained high streets of their vitality," Simms added.